Ireland marks centenary of revolt that led to independence

first_imgIreland staged the largest commemorative event in its history to mark the six-day revolt, when rebels seized buildings across the capital and declared an Irish republic on Easter Monday 1916.Members of the global Irish diaspora and descendents of the rebels were among those who turned out to watch a parade by almost 4,000 members of the armed forces and emergency services.President Michael D Higgins began the day’s events by laying a wreath at Kilmainham Gaol, where 14 of the 16 rebel leaders executed by the British were killed by firing squad.He later laid another wreath at the General Post Office (GPO), the rebel headquarters during the revolt, before leading a minute’s silence for all those who died.A military band played Danny Boy, and an army officer read out the 1916 proclamation declaring “the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland”.Thousands of Australians of Irish heritage travelled to join the commemorations, but not all took part in the official program.”Many people go back, buy t-shirts … but they’ve missed the whole point,” Patrick Cullen, who migrated to Australia from Ireland in 1989, told AM.”If you make a quiet visit to some of these areas, read the plaques, the sculptures, find the pain that these people went through.”They’re defending something that they never had.”Cullen said he would return to Ireland for the actual date of the Easter Uprising on April 24 but it would be “very private”.”I go back and put myself in these places, read the stories of what happened and see how I would have handled the situation, whether I would have fought,” he said.Patrick Morrison, a 72-year-old who travelled from the US state of Pennsylvania with his grandson for the commemorations, said: “It is quite emotional.”The Government has sought to stress the “inclusivity” of the events, highlighting the 250 civilians and 130 British armed forces who died alongside more than 60 rebels.”It is important that we bear witness this centenary year to all those who gave their lives during Easter 1916,” Prime Minister Enda Kenny said.The uprising began on April 24, 1916, when over 1,000 militants took over prominent buildings in the city centre.Britain sent reinforcements and began shelling the city, sparking days of fighting that ended when the rebels surrendered on April 29.Public opinion was initially against the rebels, but the arrests of thousands of people in the subsequent crackdown caused outrage and a surge in support for independence.Within six years, Britain had agreed to the creation of an independent nation, though without the north-eastern part of the island, which still remains part of the United Kingdom as Northern Ireland.The Rising “gave people the courage to believe we could achieve total independence,” Eamon O’Cuiv, deputy leader of political party Fianna Fail and grandson of 1916 rebel Eamon de Valera, said.The rebels were ahead of their time with their promise of equality and religious liberty, but  Higgins noted that “in many respects we have not fully achieved the dreams and ideals for which our forebears gave so much”.Ireland currently has a caretaker government, after an election last month failed to give any single party a parliamentary majority, leading to deadlock. Picture: Irish President Michael D Higgins inspects the Guard of honour during the commemoration.Reuters: Clodagh Kilcoynelast_img